Springtime in Full Bloom at Texas State Parks
AUSTIN – What looks to be a promising wildflower season has started early this year and Texas State Parks remain some of the best and safest places to see and photograph a dazzling array of bluebonnets, mountain laurels and other blooming flora.
This comes as good news for wildflower fans on the heels of last year’s record-setting heat wave and drought that make wildflower season a bust throughout most of a state that boasts more than 5,000 wildflower species. Most parts of Texas as of late, however, are benefiting from the late fall and winter rains and warmer-than-normal January and February temperatures.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department botanists and state park natural resources specialists concur with Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s prediction of an impressive wildflower season thanks to well-timed moisture in central, eastern and northern parts of Texas.
Even in drought-stricken West Texas, state park field reports show exceptions to the rule of a poor wildflower showing.
“The rains and snow, coupled with recent suitable temperatures have proven to be the perfect combination for a beautiful and prolific Mexican gold poppy blooming season,” reports Adrianna Weickhardt, interpretive ranger for Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso. “We’ll be celebrating with the Poppies Festival at nearby Castner Range on March 31.”
“It’s a great spring in East Texas,” says TPWD botanist Jason Singhurst, who has been seeing lots of sandyland bluebonnets (Lupinus subcarnous) that are expected to reach full bloom in coming weeks.
Singhurst also looks for good crops of Texas groundsel, bluets, white trout lily, mayapples and other flowering flora in the piney woods and post oak savannah of East Texas. He recommends Lake Somerville State Park and Trailway, and Tyler and Purtis Creek state parks as good wildflower-viewing locations in East Texas.
TPWD botanist Jackie Poole concurs with her fellow botanist about a promising wildflower season and notes “some weird things happening” where spring bloomers are concerned around Austin.
“Texas mountain laurels already have bloomed ahead of agarita and Mexican buckeye that usually come first,” Poole says. “The drought may be causing some species to flower earlier or later than normal, but I’ve got a great crop of bluebonnets, as well as many other species, in my yard. Give us some sunny, warm days and things will really start to pop.”
Sandy soils typically produce some of the better wildflower displays, according to Poole, so wildflower lovers in central Texas should consider visiting Palmetto and Inks Lake state parks, as well Enchanted Rock State Natural Area north of Fredericksburg.
Just outside Bandera, park staff report “Hill Country State Natural Area has put on her spring bonnet with purple mountain laurel, hot pink redbuds and bright yellow agarita bushes all ablaze. The fragrances are fabulous and the wildflowers are just starting up and promise to be in full bloom after early spring rains and sunny days.”
A healthy crop of bluebonnet rosettes spotted in mid-February are now starting to bloom in Goliad State Park, where spring arrived early, and park ranger Tammy Zellner promises “somewhat of a bumper crop this year.” In addition, she reports pink evening primrose, winecup, blue-curls and Indian paintbrush are starting to put on blooms.
In parts of central and north Texas, Texans are already being treated to the colorful blooms of such flowering trees as redbuds, peach, pear and Mexican plum. Judging from the profusion of pink blooms on peach trees recently spied around Fredericksburg and Stonewall, barring an unpredictable late spring freeze, peach lovers are in for a mouth-watering season.
Wildflower season at Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site takes on special meaning this year during Texas’ year-long celebration of the 100th birthday of one of the state’s biggest wildflower champions, Lady Bird Johnson, who would have turned 100 years old this December. LBJ Park Superintendent Iris Neffendorf expects showy displays of bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush and other along park trails and roads.
In honor of Mrs. Johnson, the park has installed a new wildflower display inside the Visitors Center to help with wildflower identification along the park’s nature trail that Lady Bird helped get developed and frequently strolled. On May 5 and 12, park will host a guided nature walk to highlight its flora, fauna and history.
Some of the most eye-popping wildflower crops to be viewed year-in, year-out are found in rolling, verdant Washington County. Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site between Brenham and Navasota offers great wildflower diversity among 293 acres of natural riverside beauty, as well as an informative primer on early Republic of Texas history. Rewarding patches also can be seen near Houston at Brazos Bend andGalveston state parks.
For updated statewide wildflower reports, visit the Texas Department of Transportation’s Web site or call 1-800-452-9292 that details where noteworthy stands of wildflowers have been sighted along the state’s highways.
Additional field reports this week from park staff:
San Angelo State Park – Fairly decent rainfall as well as some snow have resulted in blankets of bladderpods, small patches of plains yellow daisy, Dutchman breeches, windflower and fringed puccoon. Smaller flowering plants, such as peppergrass, cranesbill and henbit are becoming abundant as well.
Mustang Island State Park – We have some beach evening primrose lighting up the dunes.
Goose Island State Park – We should have somewhat of a bumper crop this year. The field behind the Rec Hall is covered in bluebonnets and wildflowers are sprouting all over the Lamar Peninsula.
Colorado Bend State Natural Area – There are some serious mountain laurel displays and we’re expecting the bluebonnet crop to be great.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area – Bluebonnets are coming out and should be in full bloom within the next couple of weeks, and the Mexican redbud and mountain laurels are blooming.
Government Canyon State Natural Area – Wildflower season is in full swing. Currently, the hills and savannah are covered in a mix of golden-eye phlox and prolific displays of low bladderpod. Bluebonnets are just beginning to open and will be in full bloom within the next week or two.
Lost Maples State Natural Area – Mountain laurels are putting on blooms.
McKinney Falls State Park – Bluebonnets starting to bloom.
South Llano River State Park – The wildflowers are just getting started, but right now, we have prairie verbena and agarita blooming. In the next few weeks, redbuds should be blooming and shortly thereafter the mountain laurels should join the verbena in an awesome show.
Wildflowers appear to be abundant in most parks in this region, but peaking about two weeks earlier than normal. Right now, flatwoods plums and redbuds are in full bloom at Huntsville and Stephen F. Austinstate parks.
Dinosaur Valley State Park – Bluebonnets will be the major flower here.
Cedar Hill State Park – We have done several prescribed burns of Blackland Prairie remnants at the sound end of the park. Typically, this results in an extra special mix of wildflowers, including wild foxglove, prairie celestials, wild hyacinth and Engelmann’s daisy, lasting through spring months.
Ray Roberts Lake State Park and Greenbelt – At this time, visitors are seeing oft-overlooked, but lovely early spring wildflowers such as small bluets, spring beauty, vetch and crow poison, as well as blooming Mexican plum trees. Soon to show their blooms will be bluebonnets, Indian blanket, fire wheels, pink evening primrose, prairie spiderwort, dotted blue-eyed grass, Drummonds wild onion, lemon bee balm, brown-eyed Susan and green wild indigo .
Purtis Creek State Park – We should have bluebonnets in bloom this month. There’s a large patch at the office, should be blooming sporadically throughout the park, along with Indian paintbrush and other species.